Mirror Mirror

Director: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, and Sean Bean.
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 94 mins. Reviewed in Apr 2012
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Adult concepts

This comedy-fantasy film is based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” by the Brothers Grimm, and not to be confused with the 1990 horror film of the same name about the revenge of a young girl, tormented by demons. Another film based on the Snow White fairy tale will be released shortly, under the title of “Snow White and the Huntsman”, but that one veers decidedly toward the dark side. This film is a family-friendly, light treatment of the classic tale, and meant to entertain both adults and children. It varies the original story to try to capture the teenage market, and aims to re-work the basic characters for comic effect. As with the original tale, this movie maintains some universal themes, characteristic of the Brothers Grimm: good wins over evil, virtue overcomes corruption, and innocence will triumph.

The movie follows some of the key elements of Grimm’s fairy tale. A wicked queen (Julia Roberts) wants to control Snow White (Lily Collins), a beautiful step-daughter she keeps a virtual prisoner, and a handsome Prince (Armie Hammer) foils her plans. Snow White’s beauty is envied by the Queen, and she orders that Snow White be taken to a place, where evil awaits her. She is rescued and protected by seven dwarves. With their help, Snow White blossoms into a determined woman. Despite the treacherous efforts of the sinister Queen, beauty and love triumph when the Prince claims Snow White as his bride.

Much, however, is altered in this contemporary version. The Queen is emotionally and financially insecure, which gives the tale a modern, psychological touch. She needs to affirm her confidence and her beauty by the Prince being attracted to her, but she is also running out of money and the Prince happens to be rich. In this version of the tale, it is clearly not beauty alone that drives the Queen. Rather, she needs the kudos that comes from the attention of a young man, who can solve other problems as well. Snow White is “high maintenance”.

The film spends a lot of time playing around with the theme of who gets the Prince – a girl younger than he is, or a woman much older, and it comically varies core elements of the 1812, German fairy tale. The Prince is the target of the Queen’s attention, but the Prince keeps on mentioning Snow White to her, which she finds infuriating. The Prince might be good-looking, but he is actually self-opinionated and rather smug. The seven dwarves are a band of “miniscule” highway-robbers, who pillage on stilts, and the Queen’s attempts to snare the Prince prove a disaster. The love potion she gives him mistakenly is one designed for puppy love, and it causes the unlucky Prince to want to lick the Queen’s face, and ask for his tummy to be rubbed.

The costuming for the movie is marvellous. The Queen may miss out on some things, but, except for her final look (which we are told, she truly deserves), her appearance is tremendous. If clothes make a person, she has absolutely nothing to worry about. Snow White is clothed almost as well, and the extravagance of the costuming is a special feature of the film. Colours astound, and high collars around hooped, and heavily embroidered, flowing dresses are everywhere. The film is dedicated to the memory of Japanese, Oscar-winning designer, Eiko Ishioka, who died earlier this year, and her genius for artistic costume design gives the film a stunning look.

This is an imaginative movie, designed clearly to entertain. Indian director, Tarsem Singh, brings a light, whimsical touch to a much loved fairy tale that, as the Brothers Grimm wrote it, had some dark moments, and he does so with flair and wit. His efforts, of course, are helped by some incredible costuming, and a cast whose spirited dancing and singing at the end of the film suggest joy and happiness have finally come to all.

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